(Bloomberg) — A Chinese patrol boat targeted a Japanese naval vessel with a radar system designed to calculate a range to fire a weapon, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said.
The Chinese ship used fire-control radar on a Japanese destroyer on Jan. 30, Onodera told reporters today in Tokyo, adding the government will protest China’s actions. He declined to specify the location, which broadcaster NHK earlier reported was near islands that are claimed by both nations.
The episode may undermine recent efforts to ease tensions that have damaged trade ties between Asia’s two biggest economies and brought calls from the U.S. for a diplomatic resolution. Japan today issued a separate protest after Chinese ships entered its waters yesterday.
Illuminating a Japanese ship with fire-control radar is a “risky” move by China because it could invite retaliation, said James Hardy, a London-based Asia-Pacific editor at IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. “You are assuming the other guy isn’t going to react in a bad way.”
Hardy, speaking by telephone from Bangalore, said that “it might be one of these situations where an individual captain on a ship said he was going to make a name for himself or act beyond his remit.”
Onodera called the Chinese move “extremely unusual.” Until now, most contact between Japanese and Chinese vessels has been between Coast Guard ships or other non-military vessels that were either lightly armed or not armed at all.
Shinzo Abe took office as prime minister in December advocating a stronger stance asserting Japan’s claims on the uninhabited East China Sea islands called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. The administration plans to increase Japan’s defense budget for the first time in 11 years and boost Coast Guard spending as it copes with mounting incursions by Chinese ships in waters near the islands.
– Gearoid Reidy and John Brinsley, Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.